The XXI Grote Prijs van Nederland, otherwise known as the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix, was the tenth round of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Park Zandvoort on 29th July 1973. Unfortunately the entire weekend, which would result in Jackie Stewart breaking the record for most career race wins, would be overshadowed by the death of rookie racer Roger Williamson.
Qualifying had seen a huge upset that would affect the top of the Championship standings, as Emerson Fittipaldi crashed heavily and badly bruised his ankles, meaning it was doubtful whether he would start at all. The Brazilian would ultimately make the race start, starting from a lowly sixteenth place grid slot, while title rival Stewart grabbed a front row slot, having been beaten to pole by Fittipaldi's teammate Ronnie Peterson.
At the start of the race Peterson managed to escape into an early lead, while Stewart had to fend off a fast starting Carlos Pace. François Cevert also got a strong start but fell to fourth, while James Hunt leapt ahead of the two McLarens to join the Stewart chase. Fittipaldi, meanwhile, managed to complete the opening lap, but would race no further due to the pain from having to use a very heavy Lotus clutch.
Then, on lap eight, the fateful incident occurred. Running around in the middle of the pack, Williamson was charging down the sweeping run to the tunnel when his car refused to steer, sending him straight into the Armco barriers which then collapsed and caused the March to roll over. Williamson was then trapped in the car as it scraped along the ground, while a fuel leak caused the entire car to ignite, with the Brit unable to escape.
Seeing his friend engulfed in flame and upside down, David Purley slammed on the brakes and went to Williamson's aid, immediately grabbing a fire extinguisher from a nearby marshal. Unfortunately the marshals were unprepared, and once the fire extinguisher expired there was little Purley could do, having to be dragged away from the burning car by the less than helpful marshals. The fire engine did arrive at the scene, eight minutes after the initial impact, in which time Williamson had died from asphyxiation.
As a white sheet was drawn over the wreckage, with Williamson's body still in the car, the race continued unabated, Peterson still out front with Stewart unable to close. Pace began to tumble down the order as his Firestone tyres faded, while Hulme went out with an engine failure.
Peterson looked set to claim victory until the 67th lap, when his ever fragile Lotus broke its gearbox and left him on the sidelines. Stewart therefore inherited the lead and duly completed his twenty-sixth win, thereby overhauling the record set by the late Jim Clark, Stewart's friend and countryman. Cevert claimed second ahead of a surprised Hunt, who fended off Peter Revson throughout, while Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Gijs van Lennep completed the scorers.
A few weeks after the race, Purley received the George Medal for his attempts to save Williamson.
The Circuit Park Zandvoort had fallen out of favour with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association after two incident filled races in 1970 and 1971. The organisers lost their right to hold a race in 1972, with the Nederlands Autorensport Vereniging (N.A.V.) taking over the circuit and installing a full set of Armco barriers, while also moving back the sand banks to add run-off areas. These works were enough for the circuit to return in 1973, although the N.A.V. still decided to add a tight right hander after Tunnel Oost to slow the cars, while remodelling of the pits and paddock was still ongoing as the F1 circus rolled into the Netherlands.
Into the entry list and the two title pretenders Lotus and Tyrrell arrived with a near-full compliment of battle scarred, but otherwise fighting fit, cars for their quartet of drivers. The Lotus pair of Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson once again had two cars each at their disposal, with all four getting new gearboxes, although their spare cars were not meant to leave the transporter, given that the German Grand Prix was to be staged the following week. For Jackie Stewart and François Cevert there were no changes for their regular challengers, with the experimental spare car allocated to Stewart with a new nose design.
For almost everyone else, however, the post-British Grand Prix work would include at least one complete rebuild after the huge accident triggered by Jody Scheckter. The South African racer would pay the price for starting the pile-up, his McLaren beyond immediate repair, leaving just the two regular efforts of Denny Hulme and new race winner Peter Revson. Surtees had also lost a car, dropping the written off effort of Jochen Mass, leaving team leader Mike Hailwood with a hastily rebuilt car while Carlos Pace would use their developmental spare, in what had been a very costly couple of weeks for John Surtees.
Brabham had completed work on another BT42 in time for the Dutch race, although that would only serve to replace the destroyed effort of Andrea de Adamich. Unfortunately the Italian was too badly injured to race, with his sponsors also temporarily withdrawing support for John Watson, leaving just the two factory efforts of Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior. The new car would therefore be allocated to Reutemann as a spare, although both drivers would ultimately spend some time bedding in the new car in practice.
At March there had been a huge amount of unpaid effort to get Roger Williamson's car rebuilt, allowing him to partner the semi-works effort of Mike Beuttler once again. The latter car of Beuttler was sporting new parts, courtesy of the privately developed Hesketh Racing entry for James Hunt, who was quickly becoming a cult figure after bursting onto the F1 scene. The fourth car of David Purley had escaped the Silverstone chaos by being smashed in the warm-up, although that too would be in the Zandvoort paddock with a new front end.
Elsewhere, Shadow arrived with a full compliment of cars, George Follmer and Jackie Oliver being supported by a brand new chassis, which was finished off at the circuit, while Graham Hill was back with the Embassy Racing effort. Iso-Marlboro had come up with some new nose designs for the Frank Williams Racing Cars team, who would field local pay-racer Gijs van Lennep alongside Howden Ganley. At BRM there was also a full selection of cars, although Clay Regazzoni, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda would be allocated different chassis from the ones they had used at Silverstone. Completing the English speaking field would be Ensign, although they were still working on their single car effort of Rikky von Opel when the weekend began.
Away from the British efforts and Tecno arrived with their pair of mismatched cars for Chris Amon to drive, although neither driver nor team were particularly inspired by either design. Their compatriots Ferrari, meanwhile, decided to withdraw from the race, Enzo Ferrari himself refusing to let the scarlet squad race unless the 312B3 could actually challenge for victory. Their withdrawal left twenty four entries in the field.
With the two title pretenders failing to score at Silverstone there had been no change at the top of the table, with Stewart maintaining his one point advantage over Emerson Fittipaldi. Behind them was Cevert, who closed to within nine points of the two leaders, effectively becoming a dark horse for the title, with Peterson also gaining ground. Victory for Revson allowed him to re-close the gap to teammate Hulme, while Hunt was on the fringes of the top ten after his second point score.
It was still an all Lotus-Ford Cosworth/Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth affair at the top of the International Cup for Manufacturers, with the Norfolk squad opening out a five point gap over their Ockham based rivals. McLaren-Ford Cosworth closed the gap after Revson's victory, further establishing themselves in third, while Brabham-Ford Cosworth moved past Ferrari on countback. Shadow-Ford Cosworth and BRM remained level on five, while March-Ford Cosworth pulled clear of Tecno with Hunt's point finish.
The full entry list for the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix is shown below:
Practice/qualifying was to be split across Friday and Saturday, with two sessions each day for a combined total of six hours of running. Unfortunately the weather would effectively eliminate Friday as a valuable session, for heavy rain and strong wind made it incredibly difficult for the drivers to stay on track. Fortunately Saturday was dry and warm, with many hoping to see if the new 1973 machines could match the old circuit record of 1:19.23, set by Jacky Ickx back in 1970, despite the increase in length.
Friday's first session began at 12:30pm, although battering rain and North Sea winds made many people think twice about heading out. Ultimately, it would be the Scot Jackie Stewart who set out into the horrid conditions first, using the experimental Tyrrell rather than his usual challenger. He was soon joined by James Hunt in his March, while George Follmer was all set to join them, before his Shadow broke a driveshaft while trying to pull out of the garage.
The weather calmed down before the end of the first session, tempting most of the able-bodied members of the field out onto the circuit, with even more on track action in the afternoon. Unfortunately the track was still soaking wet, with almost everyone going for a spin on more than one occasion before the end of Friday's running. Provisional pole, meanwhile, went to Niki Lauda in the third BRM, claiming a 1:29.45 as the chequered flag was flown at the end of the day.
Saturday was a vast improvement in terms of the weather, a bright, warm day inviting a swarm of Grand Prix cars onto the circuit right from the get go of the earlier session. Opening the session would be Chris Amon in the new Tecno, although he soon dived back into the pits for the older car as the new one required more refinement. Denny Hulme was also out from the start, the hydrophobic Kiwi completing a series of fast laps before swapping to the newer spare car for the rest of the early afternoon.
Elsewhere things were not well at Lotus, as Emerson Fittipaldi made a rare mistake on a flying lap and crashed head long into the barriers. Unfortunately Fittipaldi managed to hit the Armco at an angle that pushed the entire front left back into the cockpit, leaving him trapped for several moments by his ankles. The result was a very badly bent Lotus and an equally badly bruised pair of ankles on Fittipaldi, with the Brazilian not appearing again until the closing stages of the second Saturday session.
What made Fittipaldi's crash even more harsh was the fact that he had gone fastest just a few moments earlier, recording a 1:20.61 to top the timesheets. This time would, however, be beaten in the dying seconds of the session by the charging Stewart, whose 1:20.28 narrowly edged out Hulme's best effort set just a few seconds earlier. They were the only three drivers below the 1:21.00 mark, with the BRM trio finding themselves well down the order after topping the pack in the wet.
The final Saturday session saw Lotus throw everything behind Ronnie Peterson, with the Swede getting a special set of "sprint" tyres to try and take pole. An early lap from the #2 Lotus did settle the issue, with a stunning time of 1:19.47 making him the first driver to break the 1:20.00 barrier on the revised layout. This lap was undermined, however, when Stewart claimed second with a 1:19.97, the Scot's lap completed without the use of Goodyear's special soft rubber.
Peterson's teammate, Fittipaldi, meanwhile, was struggling in his spare car, only able to limp round in tremendous pain after his crash earlier on. His best effort in the spare left down in sixteenth, although he was briefly classified in the top six before his earlier time was removed. Mike Hailwood, meanwhile, endured a dismal session in the Surtees, an engine failure causing the rear of the car to burst into flames, while the on-board extinguisher managed to fill the cockpit rather than the engine bay. Fortunately the Brit was already heading towards a marshals post, managing to escape the flames and put out the car.
Elsewhere, Amon was in a better mood after getting some serious running in the new Tecno, while James Hunt impressed the entire field with a 1:20.70 to claim seventh. Another man to cause a stir was Jackie Oliver, who put the Shadow onto the fourth row after an afternoon spent thrashing the newest chassis into every corner. Other highlights saw Rikky von Opel get among the midfielders in the Ensign, Carlos Reutemann breech the top five for Brabham, while Hailwood was allowed to start, albeit from the back of the grid as his entire car was rebuilt overnight.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||2||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:36.10||1:30.00||1:21.38||1:19.47||—|
|2||5||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:36.70T||1:30.42||1:20.28||1:19.97||+0.50s|
|3||6||François Cevert||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||—||1:32.31||1:21.70||1:20.12||+0.65s|
|4||7||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:20.31||1:21.20||+0.84s|
|5||10||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:36.37||—||1:23.13||1:20.59||+1.12s|
|6||8||Peter Revson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||—||1:36.05||1:21.26||1:20.60||+1.13s|
|7||27||James Hunt||March-Ford Cosworth||1:38.54||1:30.26||1:21.92||1:20.70||+1.23s|
|8||24||Carlos Pace||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:36.04||1:32.88||1:21.88||1:21.02||+1.55s|
|10||17||Jackie Oliver||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||—||1:32.06||1:21.28||1:21.23||+1.76s|
|13||11||Wilson Fittipaldi||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:47.64T||—||1:22.76||1:21.82||+2.35s|
|14*||28||Rikky von Opel||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:23.14||1:22.01||+2.54s|
|15||25||Howden Ganley||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:38.68||1:31.83||1:23.60||1:22.10||+2.63s|
|16||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:37.98||1:31.34||1:20.61||1:22.24T||+2.77s|
|17||12||Graham Hill||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:51.37||1:36.49||1:23.18||1:22.40||+3.03s|
|18||14||Roger Williamson||March-Ford Cosworth||—||1:35.42||1:22.72||1:23.35||+3.25s|
|20||26||Gijs van Lennep||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:47.63||1:32.44||1:24.56||1:22.95||+3.48s|
|21||18||David Purley||March-Ford Cosworth||1:37.30||—||1:24.14||1:23.09||+3.62s|
|22||16||George Follmer||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||—||—||—||1:24.14||+4.67s|
|23||15||Mike Beuttler||March-Ford Cosworth||1:45.78||—||1:29.30||1:24.45||+4.98s|
|24||23||Mike Hailwood||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:37.46||—||—||1:32.33||+12.86s|
|WD||9||Andrea de Adamich||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
|WD||29||John Watson||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- * von Opel was unable to start the race after his suspension failure.
|20||Gijs van Lennep|
Sunday proved to be rather dull and overcast, although there was very little threat of rain to dissuade Dutch fans from gathering at the circuit. The warm-up session was cut down to a fifteen minute shakedown, due to local laws that prevented the circuit being used before 1:00pm, although it was long enough for both Niki Lauda and Mike Beuttler to get stuck out on the circuit. Fortunately they and the injured Fittipaldi would make the start, although there was almost a nasty accident in the pits during a support race, whereby an errant BMW hit the back of George Follmer's Shadow as it was being set upon by his mechanics.
At just after 2:30pm the race began, moments after a delayed Roger Williamson shot out of the paddock and tagged onto the back of the field. Out front, meanwhile, it was pole sitter Ronnie Peterson who shot into an early lead, leaving Jackie Stewart to head the herd behind. Through Hunzerug there was a tap between Howden Ganley and Niki Lauda, resulting in a bent nose on the Iso-Marlboro and a BRM scrambling off the circuit with a set of slick tyres clogged with sand.
The rest of the opening lap passed without note, with Peterson pulling clear of Stewart, while Carlos Pace found himself in third after muscling his way through the pack at Tarzan. François Cevert was in fourth and on the back of the Brazilian, with a small gap back to James Hunt, whose own start had been good enough to push him up the order, albeit with the rest of the Grand Prix elite on his tail. At the back, meanwhile, Jackie Oliver spun out of the race in his Shadow, crashing right in front of designer Tony Southgate who instantly turned and walked away in disgust, although the Brit instantly blamed a throttle jam for the incident.
The race began to settle on the second lap, with two more drivers disappearing: Mike Beuttler with an engine failure; while the injured Fittipaldi was simply too uncomfortable to safely race. Peterson, meanwhile, was holding a steady lead over Stewart, who was dragging Pace and Cevert along with him, while Hunt, Denny Hulme and Carlos Reutemann stalked the leading quartet just a few yards back. Peter Revson was next after getting caught behind two of the BRMs, while the rest of the field had begun to string out into small pairs, with private battles forming throughout the order.
Then, on lap eight, an ominous cloud of smoke erupted at the back of the circuit. While fighting with friend and fellow March charger David Purley, Williamson had run wide and smacked into the barriers, the cause later confirmed to be a failure on the front of the car. Unfortunately the Armco barrier collapsed on impact, and the out of control Williamson was pitched into a barrel roll, with the car sent skidding along the tarmac upside down, before bursting into flames.
Having seen the failure, Purley instantly slammed on the brakes and climbed out of his car, sprinting to his friend's burning March as it came to a stop, still upside down. Snatching a fire extinguisher Purley braved the flames, although he was unable to put the increasingly intense fire out before the sole extinguisher expired. Desperately the Brit then began trying to overturn the car and pull Williamson out, although the marshals running to the scene were powerless to aid him, none of them wearing fire proof clothing. All they could do was drag a distraught Purley away from the car and wait for the fire engine, but that would arrive too late to save the trapped Williamson.
Amid the confusion at the back of the circuit, with some believing it was Purley's car burning with the Brit trying to save his investment, Peterson stretched out a sizeable advantage over Stewart, who was under pressure from Cevert once the Frenchman dealt with Pace. The Brazilian, meanwhile, was still with the Tyrrells, and had Hunt in the Hesketh Racing March who had escaped from a dispirited Hulme. The white McLaren still had Reutemann for company, until the Brabham suffered a front left tyre failure and sprayed bits of rubber across the start/finish straight, the Argentine just keeping enough control to slide the car to a stop on the exit of Tarzan.
As the wreckage of Williamson's car was covered up, the pattern of the race changed again, caused by an unbalanced wheel on the Surtees of Pace, which allowed Hunt to move past with ease. Moments later and Hulme suddenly seemed fired up and duly went past, with the pair now sweeping onto the back of the Tyrrells, which had gained ground as Pace faded. The quickfire demotion for the Brazilian prompted him to pit for a fresh set of Firestones, while Chris Amon was seen shaking his head as he pulled an outclassed Tecno into the paddock to retire.
With that the race became a procession, Peterson pulling further and further ahead while Stewart cruised along in second with Cevert, Hunt and Hulme unable to do anything to relegate him. This would change just before half distance when the Ford Cosworth engine in the back of the Kiwi's car expired, while Peterson continued to reign supreme. Yet, Lotus were famed for their poor reliability, and as the Swede hit the forty lap mark the inevitable happened.
Coming through the final corner, Peterson was seen trying to find a gear, with Stewart and Cevert suddenly gaining a heap of time as a result. Five laps later and the pair were within sight of the Lotus, which was seriously struggling, while Hunt had been dropped with a failed clutch, although the Brit was battling on without it. Peterson was also battling, however, and he continued to hold onto his lead through until the 65th tour.
Ultimately it was not the broken gearbox that ended the Swede's race, for the Cosworth engine had been overstressed by the issue and expired, leaving Peterson to roll silently to a stop in the pits. Stewart inherited the lead and pulled clear of a nonplussed Cevert, while Hunt was a distant, but otherwise untroubled third, just keeping his March going. Revson and Beltoise were equally lonely in fourth and fifth, while Gijs van Lennep was up to sixth in the Iso-Marlboro.
The order ultimately remained unchanged to the flag, with Stewart collecting a record, but otherwise unhappy, twenty-sixth career win, and taking full control of the Championship. Cevert was fifteen seconds back in second with Hunt a minute behind in third, although his maiden podium was overshadowed by Williamson's death. Revson and Beltoise were next while van Lennep claimed his first points finish, a point that was also the first for the Iso-Marlboro effort.
The full results for the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Peterson was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- † Hill, in contrast, could not be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- ‡ Purley withdrew from the race after trying to rescue Williamson from his burning March 731.
- Second and final start for Roger Williamson.
- Ronnie Peterson claimed the 55th pole position for Ford Cosworth as an engine supplier
- Twenty-sixth career victory for Jackie Stewart.
- The Scot therefore overtook Jim Clark on the all time winner's list.
- Tyrrell claimed their fifteenth victory as a constructor.
- François Cevert also earned them their 30th podium finish
- Engine partner Ford Cosworth earned their 61st triumph.
- Maiden podium finish for James Hunt.
- Gijs van Lennep claimed his first points finish.
- The Dutchman also secured Iso-Marlboro their first Championship point as a constructor.
An emotional record victory for Jackie Stewart left the Scot with a ten point advantage at the top of the Championship standings, with Emerson Fittipaldi really beginning to struggle with both poor luck and unreliability. The Brazilian now looked more likely to battling for runner-up as François Cevert closed the gap, while Ronnie Peterson slipped further behind in fourth. Elsewhere Peter Revson overhauled teammate Denny Hulme, James Hunt moved ahead of Jacky Ickx for seventh, while Gijs van Lennep ensured that there were eighteen different scorers for the season.
It was advantage Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth in the battle for the International Cup for Manufacturers, the Surrey squad overtaking Norfolk's Lotus-Ford Cosworth effort and establishing a four point advantage. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were sat in an even more distant third, twenty points behind Lotus, although they were hardly under threat from behind with Brabham-Ford Cosworth and Ferrari still level on twelve points. Other points of note were the fact that March-Ford Cosworth were up to sixth thanks solely to the efforts of Hunt, BRM remained in seventh, and Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth were finally on the board, ahead of Tecno on countback.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: DUTCH GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr230.html, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- D.S.J., 'The Dutch Grand Prix: An unhappy affair', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/09/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1973/35/dutch-grand-prix-unhappy-affair, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- 'Netherlands 1973: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/pays-bas/engages.aspx, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- 'Netherlands 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/pays-bas/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- 'Netherlands 1973: Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/pays-bas/classement.aspx, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
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